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Keywords:

  • Fire intensity;
  • Mediterranean;
  • Mortality;
  • Post-fire growth;
  • Regenerative strategy;
  • Shrub

Abstract. The effect of fire intensity - both temperature and duration - on the resprouting pattern of the evergreen Mediterranean shrub Erica multiflora in relation to plant size, was experimentally investigated by subjecting plants to the flame of a propane torch, and observing mortality and resprouting after 5 and 20 months.

Pre-treatment plant size was not important in determining post-fire plant survival, but it did influence the resprouting vigour, increasingly so with time. High temperatures induced higher mortality rates within populations, but duration of fire did not effect mortality. Biomass of resprouts was lower following more intense fire treatments, but this effect progressively disappeared over time, except in plants subjected to the most intense fire treatment. This is probably because of the increasing importance of the below-ground organs for the regeneration of the above-ground biomass. Some of the plants which were clipped but not exposed to fire also died 20 months after treatment. The effect of clipping onmortality andresprout-ing response, estimated as biomass of resprouts, was not significantly different from the effect induced by either low or medium temperature treatments, but was significantly different when compared with the effect of high-temperature treatments.

Field observations show that the establishment of seedlings of E. multiflora is rare both after fire and between fires. Thus, our data support the idea that both a single fire or clipping can diminish the population size of a resprouting species. We conclude that fire may have a stochastic effect on E. multiflora populations, due to the variation in fire intensity existing within a single burning stand.